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Another year down! And again, we can hardly believe how fast it has flown. For us Aussies, it means Summer fun begins with outdoor Christmas carols, lazy days at the beach and a long, long school holidays to fill with incredible activities to keep our kids from saying, “Mu-arm… we’re bored!”

The transition from school routine to holiday cruisy bliss can be a little daunting. So much time, so little money, so little energy, so many demands. Parents still have to balance the earning of the money, the household chores and the keeping the children happy and entertained. It’s a tough gig.

It comes down to the same old question of how much time ‘should’ a parent play with their kids, entertain them, how much time is ok for a parent to spend on their own stuff, and how much should they work/do the household boring duties. I don’t want to fake play; ie play because I think I should, I’d rather have quality, side-splitting fun times than be at their beck and call every moment of every day out of guilt. But at the same time I don’t want them to think that they’re not important or fun… = dilemma.

My answer? Plan fun stuff that all of us can genuinely enjoy together: swimming, movies, play dates with all our friends, cafes, op shops, shopping, cooking and family time with cousins/grandparents! This fills the guilt void and leaves them time to play on their own, or together at home, while mumma gets to blog or read or swing in the hammock. Good times.

Do you have any holiday advice for the likes of me and a coupla thousand other stay at home mummas?

 

It happens. You bought a dodgy present. We all understand. It was a last minute panic present. It was probably for the person that has everything and needs nothing. Perhaps it was a pair of oversized undies or a Danoz Direct miracle bra.

Well, if you’re well aware of the deadline of Christmas and have absolutely no ideas for those relatives that are impossible to buy for, here’s a few tips that will keep you in their good books with that perfect present.

  1. Second hand undies (here I go again), swimmers or gym wear are always a bad idea. If you’re going to go pre-loved focus on furniture and perhaps take the time to repaint or repair.
  2. If in doubt buy a gift card, preferably one that includes a range of stores.
  3. Think before you buy. Does the person really love Horror films or is that just you? Are you buying them liquorice so you can eat it? Try and remember conversations, their homes, their cars, shared experiences and you’ll be fine.
  4. Clothing is always risky. Make sure your taste matches theirs or you will be on the receiving end of the raised eyebrows, fake smile response. And that’s just awkward for everyone.
  5. Avoid inappropriate presents: ie Lingerie for the mother in law, a Weight Watchers voucher for anyone, an R rated film for the 14 year old nephew, Cosmo subscription for the 5 year old niece or ‘Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus’ for the couple that is always fighting.
  6. Be generous but not OTT (over the top). This is not a time to be competitive. Bigger is not always better. Some of the best presents are the cheapest but mean the most because of the thought put into it! So chill, think and enjoy.
  7. On the other hand, cheap is not always the best. $2 shops are great for stocking stuffers but not the main present. Stuff from these shops break… on Christmas day… not a good feeling.
  8. Cooking is great but be aware of allergies, diets and tastes.
  9. Novelty is great if you pick the right person. But these presents are only good for a moment’s giggle so choose carefully. Cos you know they’re just going to end up at the Op Shop.
  10. Re-gifting is a definite no-no. That is unless it’s an awesome item you already have a hundred of and you know, that you know that you KNOW who gave it to you!

Anyhoo, that’s my top ten no-no’s of Christmas. What is the worst present you’ve ever received?

 

image by steve burke

Confectionary companies, toy makers, soft drink manufacturers, wrapping paper entrepreneurs, sticky tape designers, electronic wizards, card producers – are they all involved in the biggest marketing conspiracy of our time? Is Christmas really a crock? Why do we spend SO much money on things: food, clothing, gadgets galore, toys toys toys, junk food and birds and pigs for Chrissy dinner? Where did it all come from and is it just a hollow-day?

No of course not. I love to hear the theories and opinions of those humbugs who come out at such times as these (including Valentines day, Easter, Mother’s & Father’s day etc). It is the sour crowd that poo-poos such a joyous occasion and dares to darken it with ideas of conspiracy. Sure, the manufacturers of such things celebrate with such frivolous festivities but so do we! We love to buy and receive presents. Let’s be honest. It’s not the companies we worship, we love things! It’s more than that, though. It is good for our soul to be reminded that we are thought of by others.

Perhaps the ‘humbugs’ have a generosity problem. Afterall the real meaning of Christmas is about Christ and his sacrificial gift to the world. This time of year, therefore, must be a celebration, a joyous occasion to show how you really feel about your loved ones and hopefully beyond them. It is not a time for counting the cost but enjoying the opportunity to give. Whether you buy a goat from Afghanistan for a double generosity hit or the latest computer game, it should be a time where it is a pleasure to give.

image by Vintage Holiday Crafts

And that goes for the other celebrations during the year! Valentines day, the so-called ‘Hallmark’ day, is a great opportunity to be romantic. Even just for one day a year. Don’t buy a Hallmark card, make your own and stick it to the company at the same time as making your loved one feel special. Ta-da! Then there’s mothers and fathers day that is a marketers dream (especially for lingerie and hardware stores). But remember the incredible work parents put into raising their kids, especially when they are little. Don’t they deserve ONE day off, a little bit of pancake pampering? Once again, make a present or card if you can’t abide the gift shops or the like .

Humbuggers (as I like to call them), stop reducing the joy of Christmas to a mud puddle of ho and hum, black conspiracy theories and a spirit of tightfistedness! No, resist the urge to grump and grumble but go to the shops (or do it online instead), with a grin, a light heart and a sense of humour. It is a crazy season. But it’s fun! So stop your grumbling and enjoy it!!!

 

I am on the Oprah band-wagon! After a week or so of ‘Oprah this Oprah that’, I have found myself drawn into the Oprah hype and here I sit. Every night I find myself hungry for the next Oprah-hit. But it’s not Oprah I’m excited about.

With hand on heart and eyes reflecting a waving Australian flag, I find myself in awe of Australia and grateful that it is finally on the Oprah map. Which, of course, means it is on the world map. You’re not just a randomly shaped continent anymore ‘stralia-ee, oh no. Now you have a voice. And it’s LOOUUUUUDDDDD!

Love her or hate her, Oprah is good for Australia. And having her here kinda brings the ‘star’ down to earth don’t you think? She looks kinda overdone in the light of our Aussie sun. The make-up and the taffeta clothes. It’s too much for a climate and culture such as ours. I hope next time she’ll pack a sarong, thongs and a singlet. Then, she’ll really have an Australian experience.

Seeing our grand country through the Oprah lense makes me appreciate this vast island. I have only experienced this level of patriotism when I travelled. You know the feeling when you come across a fellow Australian, you give them your broadest “G’day!” (do we REALLY say that?) and share your Aussie perspective on wherever you are. ie “how bad is the coffee around here?”

Because the good coffee is in Australia (and then there’s Italy.) There’s the good food, the great weather, beaches without flaws, animals galore and sport, culture and ancient history.  It’s all here people and we should be damn proud of it. And it shouldn’t take a television super star’s visit for us to realise how very lucky we all are to live here.

Sure it’s a nightmarish flight away from the ‘mainland’ and the rest of the west but that’s what makes it special. It is remote and wild and cultured and relaxed and darn beautiful. Every time I go to the beach, I come home with bruises. There’s so much pinching going on! How did I get to live here? The water is clean, warmish (tbc) and the weather is generally perfecto!!!

So you thought this would be a gush about Oprah, didn’t you? You cheeky little blog readers! But no, this little Aussie battler has given you a taste of my Australian pride. As Oprah boards her private jet, will my  hand on heart go a bit limp? Will I forget?

I may need to keep my Oprah-glasses a little longer to appreciate the paradise I find myself living in. But this shouldn’t be too hard. It’s Christmas, it’s summer, and we have the BEST beaches in the world.

 

image by Mike Spasoff

They’ve GONE! Done like a dog’s dinner. There is an odd echoing around the northern Northern Beaches. It’s oh so quiet, too quiet. Where have they gone? Have they travelled across Pittwater to the hippy houses on the various islands and coves? Have they gone south for the summertime or north to bask in even more sunshine? Where have our Christmas Carols gone?

In years past, Avalon has had a jolly party in the park, smack bang in the middle of town. Now, it only holds screaming children, pooing dogs and exercising fifty year olds. The old Avalon carols had Elvis (random!!!) and Santa (that’s better) and candles and carols and community spirit. But this year and last… NOTHING.

True locals tell of times past when there were lights and decorations down the main street and shop windows had that festive fake snow Christmassy decoration look to them. Now, we’re becoming more like the Eastern suburbs with the ‘cool’ crowd. Oh no the cool crowd don’t go for the daggy fake snow and tacky Christmas decorations. It has to be more la-de-da than that!

We have a few banners down main street and a few shops have baubles and even a Christmas tree, but nothing else and NO CAROLS. Last year Palm Beach hosted a Carols by Candlelight but there have been no banners on the bends, no notices in the Manly Daily, where is the love? It is not like there is a lack of demand in the local community. Everyone has the same vacant, blank look on their faces as they desperately seek out the community event of the year. But alas, it is no more!!

image by MichaelEray

Saturday will play host to the first ever (?) ‘Amazing Avalon Day’. This is a celebration of all things Avalon! Buskers are welcome! Perhaps a bit of old town hippy Avalon will be reborn? It got me thinking… buskers, carols, buskers, carols… Do you think they would, they could? Spontaneous Christmas Carols! Word will spread, buskers will join in with other buskers, children will sigh deep sighs or relief and the parents will reach for their dusty old candles they haven’t been able to use for many moons.

It will be talked about for years to come. The day the Carols were revived and Avalon was reborn with a heart, with a soul! Good ole Christmas spirit!!!!

Did you hear about the man who was attacked by a Wombat?  He had a white beard, round belly and his name was Bruce Kringle. I love animal slapstick, but animal slapstick with Christmas themes is ridiculous. And to top it off, it was true! He was the Santa of the outback, on a mission to bring joy and peace to the wild animals of Australia.

Perhaps he forgot the wombat’s present? Or gave a more impressive one to another animal. Jealousy drives a creature wild. The short hair would be flying, standing up on end. The stumpy legs would be stamping the hard desert dirt in protest. The beady eyes would narrow, staring down the bearded intruder. The wombat would scratch the dirt back like a bull preparing to charge. He would hold his ground until the right moment and then POUNCE! Da doonk, da doonk, da doonk, down the dirt road towards Mr. Kringle.

Mr. Kringle would stand, staring at the small, solid creature careering towards him. Like a scene from The Naked Gun the round man would hold a scream,  his feet bolted to the ground as he watches his life flash before his eyes. The wombat would launch himself at the man, teeth bared, claws ready to tear at the pale North Pole skin.

The man would fall to the ground, shocked at the weight of this hideous, bloodthirsty creature and scream like a girl. His beard would tremble as he attempts to shake his hands  free from the enraged beast. Finally he relents, his hand reaches for his blood red sack. He pulls out another bag of carrots and weakly throws it at the animal.

The beast suddenly retracts his claws and pads off. The man is left bloodied and dusty. He packs his red suit away as he calls for help. The next thing he knows, he is in the hospital, showing off his wounds to a camera crew with his new name, Bruce. You’re fooling no one “Bruce”, we know who you really are.

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